After 3 months of Ayden’s passing away, I got back to work in October. Nervous to the core. With a major fear of attention, I avoided eye contact with most people.
Some came & hugged me. Thank you!
Some came and asked – How’s your baby doing now?
Some others asked – Oh you are back from maternity leave! Baby boy or girl?
I expected these. I was ready with my answers. Still, it was tough to respond. I had a socially accepted brave-momma mask on for the most part of it.
I felt awkward only when someone asked me these in the elevator with a few others in it – mostly acquaintances or strangers. Just to avoid any heads turning, I always responded, with a smile of course – Baby boy, and… I’ll ping you the rest. The tone was very low too, just enough for them to know that there’s something else coming their way.
I’d go back to my desk and wonder what to ping them, where to start. Thanks to the computer screens between us, it wasn’t difficult to explain.
Google has really friendly staff. Our kitchen staff knows everyone. Our head chef gave me a hug as he saw me at breakfast (his daughter was my husband’s student at college, so we knew each other on that front as well). During pregnancy, he had offered to make me special lunch if I found discomfort with any of the food that was already made. He would check on me how I was doing. He would occasionally advice me on eating that day’s palak paneer or the protein packed salad as they are all good for the growing baby. So, I knew the meaning of that hug.
At lunch, the sous chef came to me as I was picking up my brown rice & dal.
“So good to see you ma’am after so long”
“Thank you” I smiled
“So, baby boy or girl?”
“Uhhh… Boy…” I picked myself back up and continued “but he passed away.”
He put his hand on his chest, moved one step back. I know, he wasn’t expecting that at all. I felt sorry that he had to face that.
“I’m very sorry to hear that. I don’t know what to say… I…”
Only I could break the awkwardness “He was born with a heart condition. Had an open heart surgery, but there were complications. We lost him when he was about a month old”
I had multiple other details going on in my head – premature, TGA, critical, arteries, aorta, emergency, ventilator, pacemaker, blood transfusion… I chose only what I thought would make sense for him.
Bumped into another acquaintance, who asked – hey… I haven’t seen you in so long. Where you on a rotation or something? (Rotation is what we call when we work with our offices in other locations for a long time of 3-6 months)
“I was on maternity leave” What? Did I just say that? Why? What was I thinking? I could have just said – I was on long leave or medical leave or leave for whatever other reasons… Really? Maternity leave? Now how do I fix this?
“Oh, I didn’t know you were pregnant”
Before he said congratulations, I jumped in “but that didn’t end well. My son passed away”
“Oh, I’m so sorry about that”
Again, why did I say maternity leave? He must be thinking that I’m an attention seeker. Now I definitely need to explain. So… born with heart disease, surgery, died… Explained in a sentence, I guess.
Week 1, I also saw a lot of newly pregnant women in office. It was kinda bittersweet. The thought of the little ones those moms-to-be would be dying to meet, was soothing. The thought that I was dying to meet mine, and well, he died, was heart-wrenching. Man, is the world taking revenge on me in the form of pregnant women around, for whatever little karma points I may have?
Oh, and there was one co-pregnant woman in my larger team who had a healthy baby girl in June, 2 weeks after Ayden was born. I read that birth announcement at the hospital. My eyes scanned for her. Then realized, she must still be on maternity leave. I was the one who cut-short my maternity leave and got back to work.
The how’s your baby now and boy or girl questions continued for more than a month. Occasionally, I still get that.
I don’t see some of those pregnant women anymore in office – must have gone on mat leave. Some are still around with the ready-to-pop belly.
The co-pregnant is done with her mat leaves and is joining back next week (I secretly checked her calendar just to know that)
It was actually difficult to get back to work. I didn’t remember half of the things. I was wondering what tools to open. I had forgotten the names of my counterparts in overseas offices. I was blank & was very reluctant to ask for help.
It still is difficult. For the most part, I try focusing. At times when I lose it, I quietly push myself to the restroom, or blog for a bit. I pick myself back up, pat on my back and convince self to work on that extremely boring analysis that my client has been pestering me for.